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Project Management

How to Delegate Tasks to Make Your Project a Success

Bella Woo
December 16, 2013
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Everyone on a project team has their own idea of what the project manager does all day. They may range from overly gratuitous (“Without my project manager, I wouldn’t be able to get anything done.”) to downright negative (“Project managers just tell me what to do.”), but they usually boil down to some form or definition of task delegation. We also can’t argue that task delegation isn’t one of the biggest responsibilities of a project manager. But have you ever thought about how a project manager delegates to the team member can affect the outcome of the project?

It’s task delegation, not task minding

The most common pitfalls project managers find themselves in are related to either over or under delegation of tasks. A tell-tale sign that a project manager does not understand the project is when they over delegate. This type of project manager has assigned every aspect of the project out to the team members, leaving him to spend his day asking, “What’s the status?” and “Can we check in again in a few hours?” Answers to these questions are rarely acknowledged with additional questions, but instead he scurries away to update his project plan.

Avoid getting stuck in a trap of only doling out responsibilities and following up as the sole form of interaction with team members. Take time to read the project documentation. Ask questions about why a task may not meet its scheduled deadline and how it may impact other parts of the project. You as the project manager are responsible for the product; be ready to explain to stakeholders how a component was constructed or the strategy behind a decision in addition to being able to report on the percent slippage from the original timeline.

Your team members are not just resources

You may be familiar with the characterization of the overbearing project manager that needed your comments on the document in her inbox yesterday. And just when you can take a breath, she’s telling you that she needs another document completed by tomorrow afternoon. When you get into the office the next morning, she’s already sent you two emails asking the status of the new document. All this project manager ever seems to do is bark orders at the team. This type of project manager only refers to team members as resources. This is one of the fastest ways to belittle your team.

Keep in mind that the project team was chosen for their expertise. Every member of the team has a part to play and task delegation allow the members to fill their roles. But just as they work very hard to hold up their end of the bargain, you must do the same. Your role is to support the team, not rule over them. The word resource may be the proper terminology, but team members should not be defined merely as an expense. Your team is comprised of human beings and human beings are varied. Don’t risk your project’s biggest variable by treating them as sub-humans.

You can’t always do everything

Other project managers fail their teams by under delegating. They are proficient at the tasks they are delegating and take it onto themselves to complete more than a fair share of the work. This person is clearly hardworking, but how much of the work is unnecessarily created by this person?

It’s very easy to fall into this trap. You’ve done this job for years now and when reviewing the work from another team member, you find that the deliverable is poor quality. You decide to heavily alter the deliverable before submitting it as final. You may or may not share the final product with the person to whom you delegated the task. Next time a similar task rolls around or for later iterations of the project, you decide to save time and complete the deliverable yourself. You think, “It’ll be faster if I do it.” and “At least it’ll be done right the first time.”

If you find yourself in this position, do not pass go and collect $200. This is the primary way for project managers to overwork themselves. Are you going to do this person’s work indefinitely? What happens when a second person is assigned this task? Sure, you can probably do the task better and faster, but you wouldn’t be a project manager if you completed all the tasks. Rarely are projects successful as a one-person team. More importantly, you wouldn’t be a strong project manager if you didn’t help your team members to grow professionally. Growth requires challenge and you can contribute or stunt your team’s growth. It’s your choice.

How to delegate tasks as a project manager

As a project manager, you have significant influence over your team members. Your actions, words and attitude affect the outcome of the project. Be clear in your expectations when delegating tasks and support them to help them get the job done. Respect them and give team members the room they need to make decisions and complete tasks without you. Help them pick up the ball if it gets dropped, but don’t steal the ball and play keep away after. Delegating tasks is an exercise of trust and you’ll feel rewarded with a successful outcome and a happy team once you master it.

Project management milestone examples

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 specific examples of how using project milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how Washington Hyperloop uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of what that might look like for a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Want to hit major milestones on time more often?

We’ve got a free class to help you get everyone on board with your plan! Register for Plan Up: How to Create and Sell a Winning Project Plan to see why planning sets the stage for project success, and get a free Guide to Project Planning when you sign up.

How to create a project milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt.

Once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick video on how to create milestones:

Project milestones are easy to create and even easier to track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Simply follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From your gantt chart view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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